Fiction / Woman's Lit
This may be one of the shortest novels McCullough ever wrote. In fact, it is part of the Harper Short Novel Series. Personally, I found this utterly delightful. Brain candy of the highest flavor and lowest (none) calories!
It takes place in the Blue Mountains of Australia, outside of Sydney shortly before WWI in a time when men controlled the world, and kept their women in total submission. Not just their wives and daughters, but their widowed or maiden sisters and nieces. Men controlled the money and the country. Women controlled the house. And had their husband's permission to say so.
Missy grew up in the town of Byron in genteel poverty. She lived in a world of brown. Brown was a good color, it did not show the dirt, was never out of (or into) fashion. Raised by her widowed mother and maiden aunt, she grew up as submissive as the rest of the women in town. Byron was a family town, literally owned and controlled by the Hurlingford family—fair, blonde, and far better off than Missy and her family who were also Hurlingford's. Missy grew up a brown submissive mouse.
Beauty was not one of Missy's strong suits, and has never turned the eye of an eligible man, and both she and the town have given up. After all, who would want a brown mouse? Especially when beauty, fair and light, was all around the town? Who was the cousin who came to help in the library and saw to it Missy had novels to read? Novels of strong young women. Novels of romance.
When the stranger came to town, claiming ownership of the valley just beyond Missalonghi, Missy's home, Missy developed heart trouble. And she grew a spine! And she wanted romance. With the stranger, before she died.
As I said, this is pure brain candy, and it was great fun. If you're looking for a book as complex as, say, The Thorn Birds, then this isn't for you. But if you're looking for a fun book to read, perhaps in bed before you turn out the light as I did, this is perfect.